Month: September 2022

Languages classes – are they really worth it?

With so many free online language apps to choose from, we have to ask the question: is it still worth taking a formal language class?

We’ve all been there. That feeling of beginners enthusiasm. You reach for your phone several times a day, amazed by your own progress. You show everyone down the pub your new language app and even impress them by ordering your drinks in Japanese (to the bewilderment of the bartender).

As the days and weeks roll on, you find this enthusiasm starts to dwindle. The phrases begin to feel repetitive, and although you are getting a lot of the grammar right, you’re not quite sure why certain rules apply (and Googling the answer only leads you down a rabbit hole).

You start forgetting to log in; and when your mate down the pub introduces you to their second cousin visiting from Kyoto, you suddenly feel too self-conscious to say a word. You doubt your pronunciation and realise that, unless you randomly announce to the group that you have brown hair, you actually have very little to contribute towards a conversation.

Confidence knocked, you decide to have a little break from the apps. You receive notifications on your phone reminding you to do your daily practice and the guilt starts to creep in. The notifications are muted, the app is soon forgotten and all your left with is that sinking sense of disappointment.

Of course there are plenty benefits of apps to help you learn a language. But to use them to replace live and interactive classes, well it’s just not the same thing. Like the time in 1997 when your dad bought you a Tamagotchi instead of a puppy. I doubt you would have forgotten to feed your puppy, and definitely wouldn’t have traded it after three weeks for a packet of Opal Fruits and an Irn-Bru.

So, what makes language classes a more successful way to learn?

1. You’re joining a supportive community

Let’s face it. Daily apps can feel monotonous and, quite frankly, lonely. When you join a language class, learning becomes a shared experience. You greet one another, talk about recent events – increasingly more in your chosen language – and support each other.

You realise that other people also struggle with pronunciation and your tutor shares fun ways to improve this. You begin to form friendships. You get one-to-one support. You start to look forward to seeing one another each week and even organise a film night to watch the latest anime. This sense of community is near impossible to achieve with a language app.

2. You will build confidence

For many of us Brits, language apps are perfect. We can learn the language without having to actually embarrass ourselves engaging in conversation. No wonder these apps have such widespread appeal!

There is just one small problem with this approach, though. The only way to really learn a language is to have a go. As much as we would love to burrow away in our rooms and reappear three months later fluent in Japanese, in reality, you will make little practical process if you don’t practice with others.

This means putting ourselves in a vulnerable position and being open to making mistakes. Many, many mistakes! This is what language classes encourage you to do. There’s no hiding behind an app, you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and into real life conversations.

But the beauty of language classes is that we’re all in the same boat. Everyone is just as scared and everyone is just as inexperienced as you are. Tutors create a safe and supportive environment so that you can have a go and make mistakes. And next time you meet a local, you’ll feel confident and prepared.

3. You’ll go beyond basic phrases

Most language learning apps will take you through a standard list of sentences and over time you begin to recognise words and their meaning. They tend to use repetition to remember phrases, which can be effective, but also quite tedious.

In live classes, you’ll learn the tools to create your own sentences and engage in free-flowing conversations about topics that are relevant to you. They don’t continually repeat phrases but revisit them within different contexts to solidify and expand your understanding. This is a much more engaging way to learn.

4. You’ll learn about culture and customs

A good language class shouldn’t just teach you how to communicate, but also how to understand the language within a cultural and historical context. This helps you to abide by social norms and be respectful when you use the language. It also makes learning a lot more fun! You’ll examine newspaper articles, listen to audio clips and watch videos to fully immerse yourself into your chosen language.

5. The content is tailored around you

One of my gripes of language learning apps is the one-size-fits all approach. There’s no flexibility to tailor content around your interests and, worse still, there’s no chance to ask questions or seek clarity.

Learning is a lot more interesting and useful if you can apply it directly to your own experiences and situations. It’s a great way to get to know your fellow classmates too.

Opportunities to ask questions can also help us to understand the language better. Rather than just accepting a rule of a language, we can find out why this rule exists –it’s much easier to learn when things make sense!

6. You’re making a commitment

The problem with apps is that they are too easy to quit. They can send you a dozen emails and daily reminders but the fact is there is no accountability. If you participate in a live class, you will have a dedicated time to learn. People look forward to seeing you each week. You’re set homework you’ll need to complete. This commitment encourages you to go the distance.

So that’s it. Are languages classes worth it? Yes. Unless, of course, you own a Tamagotchi.

You can find out more about our language courses and book on the City website.

City Writes Autumn 2022 – Call for Submissions

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone
Portrait of author Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

Author photo of Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

City Writes is a termly event showcasing the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent and this term, alongside the readers from the termly competition, we are extremely excited to welcome Elizabeth Chakrabarty as our alumna guest author.

Alumna of the Novel Studio, Elizabeth Chakrabarty is an interdisciplinary writer using creative and critical writing, besides performance, to explore themes of race, gender and sexuality. Her debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimesinspired by experience of race hate crime, was published in 2021 by the Indigo Press, along with her essay, On Closure and Crime. In 2022 Lessons in Love and Other Crimes was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, and also shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Elizabeth was also shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022, for her story ‘That Last Summer’ published in The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022: Crime Stories by Comma Press. She was shortlisted for the Asian Writer Short Story Prize in 2016 for her story ‘Eurovision’ published in Dividing Lines (Dahlia, 2017).

Her shorter work includes poetry and creative-critical writing, and she has recently been published in Gal-Dem, New Writing DundeeWasafiri, and the anthology Imagined Spaces (Saraband, 2020), and in translation, by Glänta and Deus Ex Machina. She received an Authors’ Foundation Grant from The Society of Authors (UK) in December 2018, to support the writing of Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, and she was chosen as one of the runners up for the inaugural CrimeFest bursary for crime fiction authors of colour in 2022. She lives in London.

For your chance to read your work alongside this ground-breaking author, you need only send your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (no poetry, scripts or picture books) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by by midnight on Friday 18th November along with details of your current or past City Short Creative Writing Course.

Registration for City Writes Autumn 2022 event on the 14th of December at 7pm on Zoom is open now. Simply follow this link to sign up to hear Elizabeth Chakrabarty read from her fantastic debut, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, alongside the competition winners to be announced later this term.

Full submission details can be found here.
We can’t wait to read your submissions and see you on the 14th December.

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